After all directors were sworn in at the RDCK inaugural meeting Nov. 17, the first order of business was to elect a new board chair. Directors re-elected Area D Director Aimee Watson for the fifth year in a row, though she did have competition with Garry Jackman, who was also nominated for the position.
Watson said in a post-meeting scrum with reporters that she ran again because she enjoys working with such a diverse group, and thought her work to keep the meetings moving was important to accomplishing the RDCK’s goals, especially with so many newcomers. More than half the directors this term are new to the board.
“It’s frankly one of the most staggering work plans I’ve seen in terms of lists and things to do…” she said. “So it’s being able to continue with that work and stay focused, but also spending the time necessary for people to understand what we do. That complexity is where we have to have patience in the process to achieve what we need to, while giving lots of space and time for people to catch up with what we are doing… having pretty large turnover means you need a lot of space and time for understanding and learning.”
Among the major issues Watson said will be coming to the fore include resource recovery plans, managing water systems, and continuing to manage pandemic requirements.
The Valley Voice readership area will have less representation at the executive level. Area H Director Walter Popoff served as vice chair last term and was nominated to continue in the position, but lost to Diana Lockwood, the mayor of Salmo.
Lockwood had raised the issue of fair representation for municipal governments in RDCK decision-making often last term, and her election as vice chair showed that message was endorsed by a majority of directors.
“I believe we needed to have that municipal lens sitting at the executive level,” she said. “We had rural areas represented at the executive level for the last three years … I thought I could bring a little more to the table.
“I wanted to make sure that when agendas are being set and directions that we’re going, that we’re always remembering there are municipalities being affected in ways that are maybe not remembered until the board table.”
For his part, Popoff said he was happy to see Lockwood take over as vice chair.
“It doesn’t devastate me at all,” he told reporters, noting that he had been supporting Lockwood as she learned the ropes at the RDCK board. “It shows me mentoring does help.”
Board members also ratified a number of appointments to subcommittees to the regional government, from recreation commissions to water management bodies to library and waste management groups. Of these, Aimee Watson was reappointed to the Columbia Basin Trust board, and Popoff, Lockwood, and Slocan Mayor Jessica Lunn appointed to the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior BC, an economic development funding agency. Members of the public were also appointed to local community boards like the Sanca Park Water Commission, Area I advisory Planning and Heritage Commission and Castlegar Library.
Three major subcommittees, however – the Community Sustainable Living Committee, West Kootenay Transit Board and Rural Affairs Committee – will all appoint their new chairs when they first meet, over the next month or two.
Unusual FCM appointment
A Silverton village councillor will continue to represent the regional government at a national municipal organization – even though she no longer sits as a director on the RDCK board.
Silverton Councillor Leah Main has represented the RDCK on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities board for years, and sits on the organization’s executive. But there was a problem this year. Main was not appointed by her council to represent the Village at the RDCK director’s table.
“Leah had done it for a long time, so council decided a fresh pair of eyes on everything would be good,” explained Mayor Colin Ferguson, who replaced Main at the RDCK table. “The position usually goes to the mayor – not always, but usually. I certainly felt I needed to know more at the RD level and council agreed. Also, we felt it would be good to bring someone else in behind as well.”
But Main still sits on the FCM board – in fact, she’s the chair of the B.C. caucus of the FCM. Not willing to lose her near-decade of experience on that board, the RDCK had to figure out a way to continue her representation – and who would pay for it. While Main’s travel costs are covered by the FCM, her per diem and some other expenses aren’t – and tiny Silverton couldn’t cover the cost.
But the RDCK board decided to cover those costs.
“Whereas the [RDCK] values the role Councillor Main has played as a member of the FCM Board of Directors… Therefore be it resolved the [RDCK] confirm its endorsement of Councillor Leah Main to serve on FCM’s Board…,” the motion read.
The extended appointment will continue until June 2023, when Main’s appointment to the FCM executive ends.
Per diem debate
That wasn’t the only debate on per diems to take up board time at the inaugural meeting. Staff told directors the training sessions planned for the board could end up costing a pretty penny.
“In the past, we’ve done orientation over a day or two, so the amount for stipend was not overly significant in terms of a dollar amount,” said chief administrative officer Stuart Horn.
But this time, with 20 directors each being paid $200 a day for seven meetings, Horn warned board expenses would cost around $28,000. So staff suggested the directors be paid a flat rate of $500 for all seven orientation meetings, which will be taking place over the next few weeks.
After some debate back and forth, directors voted to take the flat rate for learning how to do their jobs.